Thursday, November 29, 2012


Estate Jewelry: A Necklace That Wears Its Own Rings

This gold ring belonged to Sarah Elmira Royster Sheldon, the childhood sweetheart of Edgar Allan Poe. Although they were secretly engaged as teenagers, Sarah’s father cut their relationship short, objecting to their youth and Poe’s hardscrabble background. Both Sarah and Edgar married others, but the two met again 23 years later. They soon rekindled their relationship (both of their spouses had passed away by that point), and the pair became engaged sometime around September 1849. Edgar gave Sarah this ring (inscribed “Edgar”), but a wedding never took place, as he died mysteriously on October 7, 1849.

After Poe’s death, Sarah gave the ring to Edgar’s sister Rosalie. It has passed down through the family until the present day, and it will be offered for sale in the Profiles in History “The Property of a Distinguished American Private Collector” auction on December 18. It’s part of a group lot that also contains a lock of Poe’s hair, family correspondence and photographs, and a silver spoon.

The Poe items are special, but they’re by no means the only reason to explore this auction. It is a treasure trove of incredible documents, with over 3,000 letters or manuscripts written by an incredibly varied group of historical and cultural icons. Monet, Horatio Nelson, Gandhi, George Washington, Catherine the Great, Darwin, Karl Marx, Marilyn Monroe, Einstein, Beethoven, Emily Dickinson, Lou Gehrig, the Marquis de Sade … this is just a fraction of the people involved. Set aside some time, click through, and wallow in some really fascinating documents (all of which have been transcribed for easy reading). 

This is auction season, and there are tons of other great sales coming up in the next couple of weeks. There are too many to cover all of them —my eyes can’t take it — but I’ve cherry-picked some silly, beautiful, or otherwise noteworthy pieces from a few of the upcoming sales.

First up, the silly. This ring features the face of a monkey (gorilla?) carved from labradorite, with single-cut diamond eyes and an 18k gold band. The estimate is only $300-500, so he’s not totally inaccessible if you love him! He’s available at Skinner’s Fine Jewelry auction on December 4 in Boston.

Also in this auction are two pendants by the contemporary designer Coomi Bhasin (I love this one), and check out this pretty sapphire and diamond ring by Fred Leighton.

Christie’s New York is holding an Ancient Jewelry auction on December 5, and this Scythian gold torque from the 5th century B.C. is a standout piece. A torque (or torc) is basically a rigid ring for the neck, and it’s a form we see a lot in ancient jewelry. Worn by both women and men, torques usually signified nobility or possibly even the divine, as they’re often seen in depictions of ancient Celtic gods and goddesses. Soldiers of the Roman Republic also wore torques, and the warrior depicted in the famous (and, to me, heart-wrenching) sculpture Dying Gaul wears a torque with a twisted design.

This Christie’s torque is, to quote the catalog description, “of massive proportions,” and is made out of a solid rod (shush) of gold, with a central section that has been hammered flat and incised with a triple petal-like design. It’s listed as weighing 81.64 ounces, which works out to just over five pounds. Five pounds of gold on your neck. Can you imagine???

This platinum, natural pearl, and diamond corsage ornament dates to around 1910, and will be offered for sale in the Magnificent Jewels from the Collection of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman auction at Sotheby’s New York on December 5. Jayne Wrightsman (some great photos and background here) is a well-known philanthropist and collector, and the 63 jewels featured in this collection are a nice, eclectic mix, including contemporary rings by JAR and a 19th-century Imperial Russian bow brooch.

1910 saw fashion and jewelry design begin to embrace a smaller, more vertical silhouette, and this corsage ornament is a good example. Measuring around four inches in length, it features a large, button-shaped natural pearl, which is bookended by two pear-shaped diamond drops (weighing 9.59 carats and 8.78 carats). Another large cushion-cut diamond (8.67 carats) sits at the top of the piece, while two more diamonds and a large natural pearl drop extend below. Diamonds of various cuts — old European, rose and old mine — fill out the design. I’m not usually a big diamond person, but the design of this piece — which takes inspiration from the lotus flower — is unusual, and I think it’s very, very pretty.

This fantastic spider-embellished 14k gold and nephrite (a form of jade) cigarette case is by Tiffany & Co., circa 1900. It will be offered for sale on December 9 in a jewelry auction at Lambertville, PA’s Rago Arts and Auction Center. Funny, I suddenly have an urge to take up smoking.

The Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction scheduled for December 10 in New York has, as usual, a huge amount of big, bold gems — and this necklace is no slouch. Consisting of three strands of graduated emerald beads, it features two floral plaques of circular- and baguette-cut diamonds set in platinum.

(Also, look at this awesome little Cartier tiger!)

On December 12, Bonham’s in London will hold an Entertainment Memorabilia auction, and this particular lot jumped out at me. Being a “silvered metal necklace with coral colored inlay,” it’s not a particularly high-end piece of jewelry — but back in the 1960s, it belonged to Eric Clapton. Clapton was photographed wearing the necklace multiple times during his days with Cream, and he later gave it to the daughter of drummer Ginger Baker. The piece is estimated to sell for $1,600 – $2,400, and comes with a provenance letter signed by Clapton. Click through to view an, um, interesting photograph of the band.

These beautiful 18k white gold, morganite and diamond earrings will be featured in Doyle New York’s Important Estate Jewelry auction, also on December 12.

The two drop-shaped morganites weigh around 16.60 carats, and are a lovely shade of pale pink. Morganite, a form of beryl, is named after J. P. Morgan, the famed banker, steel man, and philanthropist. Morgan was an avid gem collector, and he collaborated with Tiffany’s chief gemologist George Kunz (who I talked about last year!) to create two extraordinary collections of gemstones that now reside in the New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

I have a soft spot for Morgan, because his library (the Morgan Library & Museum) is probably my favorite museum in New York City, and I stop by every time I’m in town.

Okay, enough with the auctions, geez. Check out this great Cartier owl brooch! The designer has used rock crystal to represent the bird's head, mounting it in 18k yellow gold and adding cabochon emerald eyes and citrine wings to create a successful abstract design. Circa 1960.

Circa 1890, these lovely earrings feature carved moonstone hearts suspended from diamond-set silver birds.

Wow, this necklace. Two 18k gold hands, linked by a 4-strand twisted rope of seed pearls, grasp either end of a diamond-embellished love knot. If you look more closely, you’ll see that the hands are different; one wears a pearl bracelet and an emerald ring, while the other has a ruby ring and gold cuffs. It’s English, circa 1826.

This four-sided ring spells out “LOVE” in 18k gold and blue enamel. Circa the 1970s (of course), it is totally not my taste, but I love it anyway because the letters remind me of Schoolhouse Rock. Yes, I know I just dated myself. (If you don’t know about Schoolhouse Rock, please go here for an example. An entire generation can sign the Preamble to the Constitution thanks to these cartoons.)

Boucheron is a venerable French jewelry house that dates back to 1858. They’re still in business today, so check out their website for a fantastic illustrated history that highlights some of their most outstanding jewels, milestones, and famous clients.

This combination pin/pendant is a particularly lovely Boucheron piece. In 18k yellow gold with an additional unidentified metal, it showcases a large watermelon tourmaline (a form of tourmaline that combines pink and green shades in one stone) that's set into a stylized floral base and cradled by two outstretched panthers. Smaller green and pink tourmalines accent the design, which is finished with a natural pearl drop.  The dealer description mentions that the piece comes in a fitted wooden box from the “Place Vendome Exhibition of 1925," which may refer to the Boucheron store address on the Place Vendôme in Paris, and also to the 1925 Exposition International des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes at which they exhibited.

Previously: Horror Jewels.

Monica McLaughlin also recommends checking out the "Van Cleef & Arpels: Creativity and Innovation" exhibition now up at New York's Macklowe Gallery until December 29. You can view the catalog here.

52 Comments / Post A Comment

Redheads have even more fun

Oh, darn you dumb non-winnning Powerball ticket...


Good post! I like it lots!@y

Blackwatch Plaid



@Blackwatch Plaid Do you think there was a rule on band member's members hanging the same direction?


@Blackwatch Plaid Hahah the pants were so tight!

Blackwatch Plaid

@withatwist It just reminds me of the scene with the cucumber in This is Spinal Tap.




@Blackwatch Plaid This puts the recent Jon-Hamm-goes-commando shots to shame. hoooooly smokes.

fondue with cheddar

@monicamcl Seriously, my balls hurt and I don't even have balls.


OLD DOCUMENTS! Back later, reading everything.

...wait, nope, too much to read, and I'm at work. Bookmarking instead!


The emerald bead necklace! I can't even call that a necklace...it's more like a piece of clothing. So gorgeous.

Also, Eric Clapton's old coral necklace reminds me of a sea anemone with it's wiggly tentacles.

honey cowl

We the people, in order to form a more perfect union ...


@LaurenF Establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility-eee...


Watermelon tourmaline is my favorite! Soooooo pretty!


@SarahDances Right?! I have a severe weakness for it, so much so that I made myself a necklace with glass beads that resembles a watermelon tourmaline necklace that I loved but that was too expensive for me to buy. Sigh...


@frigwiggin Someday, when I have disposable income once more, I *will* buy myself a really nice piece with watermelon tourmaline. It's just so hard to find exactly what I want that doesn't cost thousands of dollars. :(


Five pounds of gold around your neck? Somewhere, Kanye West is shouting into his iPhone, demanding his personal assistant outbid the Met and the V&A for that torque.


@Clare I can't imagine but I would like to.

fondue with cheddar

@Clare Mr. T wore twenty!






@JanieS Oh god, me too. Can ancient jewelry have a moment in the spotlight? Not too trendy--it doesn't need to be everywhere--just enough so that I can get a sub-$100 piece, please.



Also The Dying Gaul!!


@wallsdonotfall If you're down with a replica, you can sometimes find really nice pieces at museum gift shops (obviously only if they have lots of ancient stuff in their collections). I got my Latin teacher a really pretty pair of earrings in Rome that I think were replicas of something from Pompeii.

Of course, I just looked at the Met's collection and while they do have plenty of ancient inspired stuff, it's all over $100 (sometimes not by much though!). And then I fell into a hole shopping at the Met and the Smithsonian's online stores.


I hate spiders and I don't smoke, but I NEED that cigarette case. I don't think you understand how much I need it.


five pounds of gold on your neck is NBD if all you do is lie around on a cushioned chaise all day being fanned and having peeled grapes dropped into your mouth.


I just want to put out there, in the universe, the information that the Poe ring goes up for sale on my birthday, and my name is Sarah, and therefore it is fate. That's all. Just sayin'.



Also, emerald is my birthstone. AHEM, magical emerald necklace.

In other news, Chanukah starts next Saturday night.


A LOCK OF POE'S HAIR??? It's like the ultimate goth token.


Dear future potential proposers (ha!): I will only say yes if you propose with the gorilla ring.


@Megano! Definitely sent the link to my fiance and told him I had changed my mind. I want an engagement ring, but only if it's that one.


Considering that love ring to replace a ring I wear that says "No". Maybe bad juju?

I also have a print of Bouguereau's Young Woman Resisting Cupid in my bedroom.




HOLY MOLY LOOK AT THOSE EMERALD BEADS! I've wanted an emerald ring so badly for the past few years and those suckers are expensive. That's my dream necklace right there.


The One With The Hands! You guys, that one is just the exactly right amount of eccentric.


Okay jewelry experts--I've got a question for you. I'm super in love with jade saddle rings like this one: http://www.langantiques.com/products/item/30-1-1405
But I can't afford a grand on a ring. I'm thinking more like $300 or less. It doesn't have to be real gold either. Does anyone know where I could possibly find something like that in my price range?



This doesn't have any gold, but the price is right?

Sunny Schomaker

I know other people have called dibs on those emerald beads, but I warn you - my eyes are that color, so I totally NEED that necklace.

I realize that I'd look slightly ridiculous wearing that to teach freshman comp, but I do not care.

Blackwatch Plaid

@Sunny Schomaker My eyes are that color too. Fight to the death?

Lush Life

The rock geek in me had a tiny titter over the Clapton necklace being auctioned by Bonham's (sorry Ginger).

Oh, how I love these posts.


Something about that Poe ring no longer being passed down the family makes me so sad!

Edith Zimmerman

@franceschances Right? (What happened??)


I wish I was fabulously rich...or even just wealthy enough that I could bid on historical manuscripts from Gandhi and Catherine the Great. And then buy just about every piece of jewelry on this post (and in the links).

I need to find a modern-day Lord Peter Wimsey and then (bigamously) marry him for his money. Or did he just collect first editions?


Stupid question: how do you get the torque on? It looks solid all the way around. And where/how does it sit? The description makes me think it should sit just at the base of the neck, but anything big enough to fit over my huge head (seriously, my hat size is 7 7/8) would look very bizarre there.

Also, I think I've heard of people using vintage cigarette cases to carry other things, like business cards. That spider one would certainly be memorable at a networking event.

Feminist Killjoy

@Blushingflwr I was wondering the same thing!


The moonstone heart earrings to wear at my wedding plz.

sceps yarx

I think I'm going to survive my christmas vacation with the in-laws by pouring over the links in this post. Thanks Monica!


The labradorite ring seems a good gift for my wife, the next week end it`s our anniversary party and I want to surprise her. I saw a lot of estate jewelry rings she would like, I haven`t decided upon the model yet but I am glad I have found the place where to buy them.


Have you ever considered about including a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is fundamental and everything.
Sean @ Check This Out

Asad Yousuf@facebook

Jewellery may be made from a wide range of materials, but gemstones and similar materials such as amber and coral, precious metals, beads, and shells have been widely used, and enamel has often been important. In most cultures jewellery can be understood as a status symbol, for its material properties, its patterns, or for meaningful symbols.Jewelry store


Antique jewelry has always fascinated me, unfortunately I haven't had the chance yet to wear such a precious piece. A couple of days ago I've seen these beautiful Delight Beads, I'm planning on using them to replicate one of my favorite antique piece.

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